SO WHAT DOES A PARALEGAL DO, ANYWAY?
Funny you should ask. My name is Sasha Craft and I am a senior paralegal and the office manager here at Ressler & Tesh. But for now, I am going to talk about the paralegal part. Have you ever wondered what a paralegal does at a personal injury law firm? Everything, of course! Actually, no, not really everything. In fact, for all we paralegals do, there are certain things that we are prohibited by law from doing. I will go into this in more detail later.
First let’s start with the American Bar Association’s definition of a legal assistant/paralegal, “A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” This definition even open up a conversation on what is the difference between a legal assistant and paralegal. And that we might talk about on a different day. Anyways, with the definition out of the way, I will go onto the more interesting things.
Paralegals work closely with clients. We monitor much of what happens with our clients’ cases on a day-to-day basis. While the attorneys maybe in trial or arguing a motion, the paralegals are here making sure that your case is progressing smoothly. How do we make that happen? It starts with the day we meet here in the office. We ensure documents are signed correctly, we know all of our clients’ providers, draft and send letters to various agencies letting them know we represent someone. This is just the beginning! We gather investigation documents such as police reports, witness statements, photographs, and many other things. Paralegals will also resolve billing issues. We make sure providers bill the right insurance company, talk with providers, and sort out situations. Most importantly, paralegals are there for our clients. Our clients are the people who matter most. The goal is to get them the best result possible and support them during a difficult period in their life. At Ressler & Tesh, we support our clients by listening, dealing with the bad guys, and guiding them through the process every step of the way.
Earlier I told you paralegals cannot do certain things. One main thing a paralegal cannot do is give legal advice. Only our attorneys can do that. The American Bar Association Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services states that “a lawyer is responsible for all of the professional activities of a paralegal performing services at the lawyer’s direction and should take reasonable measures to ensure that the paralegal’s conduct is consistent with the lawyer’s obligations under the rule of professional conduct.” So what does all that legal speak mean? Paralegal are to be supervised and guided by attorneys. We do not make legal decisions. We do not give out legal advice. We are not able to establish the attorney-client relationship. We do not appear in court on behalf of a client, although there are some situations this can happen, but it is not typical in a personal injury firm.
How does all of this apply to Ressler & Tesh? We are a team! The attorneys provide us with guidance and direction. We keep the attorneys in the loop about everything that happens in clients’ cases and the attorneys let us know what needs to happen. Ultimately, we work together, similar to a well oiled machine, to get the case resolved in the best way possible.
Now every firm is different. Some firms have paralegals do things that look a lot like practicing law. For example, I know that some firms have paralegals negotiate their client’s settlements, relay offers to clients or get client’s authority to settle the case. While that may or may not be considered the practice of law, here at Ressler & Tesh only our attorneys negotiate our clients’ cases. And they do it quite well if I might add! Some firms have paralegals meet with new clients to have them sign fee agreements/retainers. How other firms practice is their choice. But the attorneys at Ressler & Tesh meet with our clients at their initial meeting and most likely a paralegal will sit in to take notes and be up to date on the case from the onset. Plus clients get to meet the people who will be guiding them and advocating on their behalf.
Really, I can go on and on about what us paralegals do. Whether we are preparing for trials, drafting documents, or answering calls, the most important thing to know is that personal injury paralegals support our clients and our attorneys.
To learn more about Ressler & Tesh you are welcome to visit our website at www.ResslerTesh.com.